Jackie Cooper, a curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, grew excited when she located the clownfish — made famous as the central character in the animated film “Finding Nemo” — swimming in the facility’s enormous blacktip reef tank.
“With clownfish, they’re all born gender-neutral,” she told the assembled parents and children. “When a spot opens up, one turns female … that’s the dominant one. If a female’s lost, one of the males will turn into a female to take its place. Wrasses do the same thing, but the male gender is dominant to female in that family.”
To fish, flexibility regarding gender and related identity might be somewhat old hat, but we humans are coming a bit late to the party. Only in the past decade have lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people gained wide societal acceptance in the U.S., highlighted by the right to marry in (currently) 37 out of 50 states [Note: The day after the print version of this report went to press, a U.S. Surpreme Court ruling that gay marriage is a constitutional right made gay marriage legal in all 50 states]. Gay and lesbian families, while not a new phenomenon, could arguably see an upswing in numbers in the coming years, as more and more LGBT individuals exchange wedding vows and then ponder whether children should be the next step in their relationships.